Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

How Normandy was Lost to England
Philip II (Augustus) [1180-1223]

Louis died in 1180 and was succeeded by his son Philip II, also Augustus, because he was born in August. He was only fifteen when he came to the throne, and many of the proud nobles thought that as they had now only a child to deal with they might go their own way. But Philip soon showed that he was already a man in thought, and meant to rule, not only as a King, but as a great King.

One day a courtier saw him standing in deep thought, gnawing dreamily at a little green twig. "I would give my best horse if any one would tell me of what the King is thinking," he said.

Another courtier then boldly went up to the King. "Sire," he said, "we would know of what it is you think so deeply."

"I am wondering," answered Philip, looking at him gravely, "whether God will grant grace unto me or unto one of my heirs to raise France to the height at which she stood in the time of Charlemagne."

And that was what Philip held ever in his thoughts, to make France great.

Philip spent the first years of his reign fighting his unruly barons. And, strange to say, his father's greatest enemy, Henry II of England, not only made peace with him, but even helped him to settle his quarrels. For Henry was growing old; his heart was wrung by the rebelliousness of his own sons. They were his chief enemies, and he had enough to do to guard his kingdom against them without trying to wrest land from the French King.

But peace was not possible for long between the two countries. Philip soon began to plot with Henry's sons against their father. With Richard Coeur de Lion especially he made great friends. They were like brothers; they did everything together, ate at the same table, and slept in the same bed. This friendship made Henry very uneasy, and soon again there was war. But Henry was afraid of being betrayed by his son Richard, and he begged for peace.

So the English and the French met under the shadow of a great elm near the town of Gisors. The elm stood at cross roads upon the boundary between French and Norman land. It was so vast that many people could find shelter under its branches. The trunk was so thick that four men with outstretched arms could not span its girth. Many times French and English had met beneath its branches, and it was called the Elm of Conference. The King of England was very proud of this tree, and had been heard to say: "Even as this tree can never be torn from the green grass which surrounds it, so can the French never tear from me what I possess. When I lose this tree, I shall lose all the land."

One January day, under the leafless, wide-spreading branches of this elm, the two Kings met, the one old and worn, the other young and vigorous, both keen and wily. They could not agree. Sharp words were said on either side. But as they wrangled, slowly there advanced to them a company of people. First marched a cross-bearer, behind him came two Bishops, and again behind them a crowd of knights clad in white surcoats marked with a red cross.

As the procession came the angry Kings fell silent. Then in the silence one of the Bishops stood forth. He had a message to give. He told in moving words how once again the Holy Land had fallen into the hands of the heathen, how Jerusalem was taken and the King a prisoner. Eight Kings had sat upon the throne of Jerusalem, all of them Frenchmen. Surely France would fight once again for the City of the Lord. Surely French knights would avenge their brother knights who had laid down their lives in that far land for the love of Christ.

As the Bishop finished speaking, the cry broke out, "The Cross! the Cross!"

Hastily Henry rose and kneeling before the Bishop took the first Cross from his hands.

"Ah," cried the French barons, "do the Plantagenet colors always go before the French?" and there began a struggle as to who should take the Cross first. Presently the uproar was quieted, and Philip and Richard Coeur de Lion took the Cross together.

Many knights and nobles followed them, the Frenchmen taking a red cross and the Englishmen a white. After this the two Kings settled their quarrels, they gave each other the kiss of peace, and swore friendship which was to last forever. In memory of this meeting they raised a Cross, founded a church and gave the place the name of Holy Meadow. Then each went home to make preparations for the Crusade.

But, long ere they were ready to set out, quarrels burst forth, and Henry and Philip were once more at war. Then Philip in wrath cut down the mighty elm, swearing by all the saints of France that never more should parliament be held beneath its branches.

Thus the two Kings went on, now fighting, now making peace, Richard taking part with Philip against his father, until at length the old King Henry died a broken-hearted man. Richard Coeur de Lion was then at once crowned King of England, and soon afterward set out for the Holy Land with his friend Philip.

The German Emperor had also joined the Crusade, and he was the first to set out. He had already reached Asia Minor, gained one victory, and died. Before he died, the Emperor begged his young son to carry his bones to Palestine and bury them there. But most of his barons had lost interest in the Crusade and turned back. So it was a mournful little band, led by a boy and carrying a bier, that went on.

While this sad little army was wending its way through the deserts of Asia Minor, Philip and Richard were putting off time quarrelling and fighting tournaments in Sicily. The Christians in Palestine who had begun to besiege St. Jean d'Acre awaited their coming eagerly. At length they arrived, Philip first, then Richard. For these dear friends had found it best to part, and now when they met again there were constant bickerings and quarrels.

After a long siege St. Jean d'Acre was taken. Then Philip, feeling he had now done all that he need in fulfillment of his vow, returned home.

Richard was unwilling that he should go. He knew the danger there would be to his French lands from his clever, scheming rival. So, before he went, Philip swore a solemn oath that he would do no hurt to King Richard, his land, or his people. But even as he sailed homeward, wicked thoughts filled his mind and, landing in Italy, he asked the Pope to set him free from his oath.

The Pope refused and, very ill pleased, Philip went on his way.

In little more than a year, however, Philip heard what to him was joyful news. He heard that returning homeward Richard had been taken and was now held prisoner by the Emperor of Germany.

In all haste he wrote to the Emperor, "Keep him safe, for the world will never be at peace so long as such a disturber is abroad."

Philip then made friends with Richard's bad brother, John Lackland, and they arranged to divide between them all Richard's possessions.

The Emperor was powerful. But even he could not long keep the King of England in prison. Before a year was gone he wrote to Philip and to John: "Look to yourselves. The devil is unchained. I could not do otherwise."

Richard was free. He pardoned his brother John. He fought with Philip till five years later he was killed by a chance arrow at the siege of Chalus, as you will read in English history.

John Lackland at once claimed the throne of England and all Richard's French possessions. But Philip took the part of little Prince Arthur, who was John's nephew and had perhaps more right to the throne. Philip hoped in this way to win back for France all the French land held by the King of England. For Arthur was only a child and could not really rule. Philip ordered John to give up all his French possessions to Prince Arthur. But John paid little heed to this order. Instead he took his nephew prisoner. Then, one dark night, he murdered him and threw his dead body into the Seine.

John thought he had thus made safe his claim to England and to Normandy. He was never more mistaken. All France rose against him. Town after town, fortress after fortress, were conquered by the French. Meanwhile John sat in his castle at Rouen drinking and feasting and caring little what happened to his kingdom.

Messengers came to him once and again. "Sire," they said, "the King of France has overrun all your land. Many and many a castle has been taken. He leads your vassals captive. He does as he will with all that is yours."

"Let him," replied King John. "Some day with one blow I will win back what he is now taking from me bit by bit."

But soon the soldiers of Philip reached almost to the walls of Rouen, the capital of Normandy. Then John fled to England. The people of Rouen, however, were faithful to their duke. They begged Philip to give them thirty days' truce so that they might get help. If, within that time, John did not help them, they promised to surrender. Philip granted the truce, and messengers set out for England. They found John playing at chess. He listened gloomily to what they had to say, but answered not a word until the game was finished. Then he spoke.

"I cannot help you," he said. "Do the best you can for yourselves."

So the messengers returned, and when the thirty days were over the flag with the red lions of Normandy was hauled down and the blue flag of France, sewn with golden fleur-de-lis, floated out upon the breeze.

Thus after three hundred years the duchy of Normandy came back to the crown of France.